Thursday, January 21, 2010


I have been mulling things over a lot in the last few days.
One of the most amazing parts of the lesson for me was the outside rein for the leg yield.
A leg yield is a lateral movement when the horse is facing forward and moving forward at any gait and is pressed both forward and sidewys by his riders leg.  The horse is slightly bent away from the direction of travel and his 'following' (or inside) legs cross over the 'leading' legs.  Google it for a better description or video.  To clarify inside vs. outside, the inside refers to the bend in the horses body, which in the case of the leg yield is away from the direction of travel.  So, the inside legs are the side away from the travel.  The outside legs and rein are towards the direction of travel.

The problem:  Boomer was 'trailing' with his hind end and wasn't keeping his whole body in alignment.
My solution was to use more inside leg to move his hips over and more inside rein to slow him down.  It wasn't working.

The solution:  Karin watched us leg yield at the walk and said two words "outside rein".  Oh.  I picked up the outside rein (towards direction of travel) and he striaghtened up.  She explained that his hips weren't 'trailing' but that his shoulders were leading.  She also suggested riding with a whip as needed and using it to just lay across his inside hip to help it know to track up.

Processed by me:  By using my inside rein, I was blocking the movement of his shoulders and actually causing him to have more bend and be FURTHER out of alignment.  By picking up the outside rein, I slowed his outside shoulder- allowing it to come back straight with his body.

The most incredible part to me about this whole process was that it worked.  I know that seems like a strange thing to say, but I have taught Boomer everything he knows and I was asking for the leg yield wrong.  When I asked correctly- for the first time ever- he fixed it.

It is just amazing to me that Boomer knew something I didn't.  For so long it has been me asking for trot- Boomer trots, etc.  This was the first time that something more complex has come up.  I don't know how to describe the difference.  It was a new feeling for me to fix a problem with such a simple solution.  I didn't teach him anything, I just asked a little differently.

When working at the polo farm, I was had to teach a mare to prefer her right lead.  Polo riders bear most of their weight to the right as that is the mallet hand.  I first taught her to do a flying lead change, then just schooled it every day,  any time she picked up the right lead, we went straight.  Anytime she picked up the left lead, we circled right until she switched.  She started to prefer the right lead.  I taught her that. That is different from what happened with Boomer and the leg yeild.

With an old school master, they wait patiently while a student fumbles around the cues until the student finally asks correctly, then they give the correct movement.  That also is different from what happened with Boomer.

Boomer was neither taught, nor already knew what I was trying to get from him.  But once I asked correctly, he was right there with the correct response.

There is so much more to this than just ask and recieve.  Sometimes you have to get out of the way as a rider to really allow the horse to work correctly.


Shanster said...

Yes, it's so cool isn't it? I learned that on Sera... I'd ridden my gelding for so long and learned what I learned with him in lessons and the theories and the movements. And I guess I took it for granted.

Then when I had Sera and she was 4, had only been on the track for a short time, was sent home cuz she was too slow, never raced and then she stood around with the herd until I bought her. That was the only 'training' she'd had.

She didn't know anything about her new job, being round, soft or on the bit or even about being straight...

Yet, when I asked for things (not all at once of course) she responded like she was supposed to . It is a very amazing feeling...

It's why I think of my dressage lessons each week as the "key" to my understanding of how she moves and responds and how to make my body ask these things correctly.

I just love it... glad you had so much fun with your awesome horse!

Heather said...

Thanks! I think I am really lucky to have found a great instructor. I really think we are going to see some good improvement and I am really pumped to see the progress over time! I already feel like we have a huge amount of improvement over one lesson!

I didn't know Sera was off the track. Being sent home for being too slow is definitely a quality I would want from an ex-racer!!! I think you and Sera are great! I loved watching the video you posted last year of you guys in a lesson!

Shanster said...

Yes - I got way, way, way lucky with my $1/lb red-headed mare.

When I take her to shows or clinics, people never believe she's a OTTB (does it still qualify her as an OT if she never raced??).. but I have the Jockey Club papers to prove it. grin.